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The St Louis Contrarian

Providing Independent and Intelligent Insight on St. Louis Public Policy Issues

Archive for the category “education”

Measurement of School Districts

I read a fascinating article in the New York Times which verified my thoughts about measuring educational progress. The success of school districts has been typically measured in terms of average test scores. This gives a distorted view of school districts with low income students who often start school behind the eight ball.

Research has now shown that the most meaningful measurement of progress is to measure the starting test scores and the ending test scores five years later. The progress is what is considered most important. The best performing school districts get students up to grade level in five years. I always thought the most meaningful accomplishment was for each student to demonstrate marked improvement. Interestingly, the Chicago School District had the best record in the country by this metric.

Written by Paul Dribin

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The Benefits of Good and Affordable Housing to a Community

Here is an article copied from Why Housing Matters. It is a very comprehensive statement of the importance of housing to other endeavors such as health and education. It is well worth taking a look at. The data was originally gathered by the MacArthur Foundation. Written by Paul Drib in

Why Educators, Health Professionals, and Others Focused on Economic Mobility Should Care about Housing

November 30, 2017

Cities striving to improve residents’ lives often focus on such issues as schools, parks, jobs, or health. Often overlooked is something equally fundamental. Trace the lineage of many social welfare issues, and you will likely uncover a history of substandard, unaffordable housing. Research increasingly shows that safe and affordable housing in strong and thriving neighborhoods is a launching pad to upward mobility for families.

For more than a decade, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has supported research on the role of housing as a platform for opportunity among families. The following summary of findings from more than 20 studies shows that housing shapes our lives in critical and long-lasting ways. Through this and other work, our understanding has expanded, providing greater nuance and insight into the pathways through which housing makes a difference in people’s lives and in communities. These pathways include housing stability, affordability, quality, and location.

The findings are organized for educators, health professionals, and economic development experts who regularly see the direct impact of poor-quality, unaffordable housing but who may not realize housing’s role in those outcomes.

Why educators should care about housing

Safe, stable, and affordable housing during childhood sets the stage for success in school. Children are profoundly affected by their environments during key developmental stages. Chaos in their neighborhood, frequent moves, exposure to pollutants, and unhealthy conditions leave a deep and lasting imprint. When housing consumes too much of a household’s budget, kids may not have enough nutritious food to eat to be ready to learn. Teachers see the ramifications of these conditions in the classroom.

MacArthur Foundation-supported research shows the following:

1 Adolescents living in poor-quality housing have lower math and reading scores and lower math skills in standardized achievement tests, even after adjusting for parenting and other factors.

2 Among young children in high-poverty neighborhoods, substandard housing is the strongest predictor among several housing-related conditions of behavioral or emotional problems.

3 Improving housing stability has long-term benefits for children. Any residential move during childhood is associated with a nearly half-a-year loss in school. Each additional move is associated with small declines in social skills. A majority of US children move at least once during childhood, and a sizable group moves three or more times. The negative effects, however, fade with time.

4 Moving three or more times in childhood is associated with lower earnings, fewer work hours, and less educational attainment later in life.

5 Between ages 6 and 10 is a particularly sensitive time to move. At that age, any move, voluntary or not, is linked to lower educational attainment and lower earnings later in life. (See here for results at other ages.)

6 Families who spend 30 percent of their household income on rent spend more on child enrichment than those who spend either more or less than that on rent.

7 Homelessness is linked to behavioral problems in children, though it is relatively rare and often a one-time experience.

8 Too few families can move to high-performing neighborhood schools, even with housing vouchers to help with rent. One-third of public housing families and one-fourth of families using housing vouchers live near schools that are ranked in the bottom 10th in their state.

9 The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) does better than housing vouchers in placing families near high-performing schools, though the LIHTC serves slightly better–off families.

Why health care professionals should care about housing

Both neighborhood and health disparities are stark in the United States. One’s zip code is as important as one’s genetic code in determining health status or life expectancy. The disparities are linked because where you live offers access to what makes you healthy or unhealthy, from housing without lead or asthma triggers to grocery stores with fresh vegetables, to parks and sidewalks, and access to jobs. Physicians, nurses, and public health experts recognize this, and they are doing more to ensure that the residents they serve live in homes and neighborhoods that promote their health and well-being.

MacArthur Foundation-supported research shows the following:

1 Substandard housing contributed to children’s poor health at age 6 and developmental delays by age 2. (For insights on why, see here.)

2 Housing affects mothers’ health. Poor housing conditions and overcrowding (even just perceived overcrowding) are associated with more depression and hostility among Latino mothers in the Bronx.

3 Moving to low-poverty neighborhoods can improve physical and mental health for adults, including decreased diabetes and obesity.

4 Neighborhood pollution has clear health consequences. Reducing prenatal exposure to pollutants from traffic congestion alone could mean 8,600 fewer preterm births annually, for an annual savings of at least $444 million.

5 Among Latinos living in public housing in the Bronx, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease is significantly higher than for either Section 8 voucher holders or low-income Latinos in general. Nationwide, public housing residents tend to live in poorer neighborhoods than do voucher holders.

6 Neighborhood social cohesion reduces the risk of depression or hostility among low-income Latinos in New York City.

7 About 10 percent of low-income children in a nationally representative survey of urban families were homeless at one point in their childhoods. These children relied more on emergency rooms for health care and had more behavioral problems.

8 Housing for homeless families and rental assistance for food-insecure families improves health outcomes of vulnerable children and lowers health care spending.

Why people focused on ensuring greater economic security and mobility should care about housing

Housing is a launching pad to successful lives. High-quality housing in strong neighborhoods positions residents to capitalize on opportunities. And investing in communities reaps benefits beyond the neighborhood in lower social, health, and economic costs for the city and region. Cities nationwide are working to reverse entrenched poverty and providing needed opportunities for all residents. The findings below demonstrate the connection between housing, neighborhood, and upward mobility.

MacArthur Foundation-supported research shows the following:

1 Improving neighborhood social cohesion and access to jobs and reducing environmental hazards have a strong effect on health, earnings, and well-being.

2 Housing affordability and stability encourage work. Families using housing vouchers were working more consistently after five years than similar low-income families without vouchers.

3 Policies that focus on moving families to better neighborhoods are not enough to address every problem related to poverty. Families need additional supports to overcome their circumstances.

4 Siblings who lived in public housing as teenagers fared better than their siblings who spent less time in public housing. They earned more as young adults and were less likely to be incarcerated. More room in family budgets to invest in children may be one reason for the better results.

5 Improving housing stability for children has long-term benefits. Moving three or more times in childhood—especially between ages 6 and 10—lowered later earnings nearly 52 percent.

6 In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 16 households are evicted every day. Poor, black women are especially vulnerable. Evictions disrupt children’s schooling and perpetuate economic disadvantage.

7 Racial segregation and a tight rental market constrain housing choice for low-income families and may be one reason voucher holders live near lower-performing schools.

8 Inclusionary zoning policies expand access to more economically diverse neighborhoods and better-performing schools, though inclusionary zoning is only a small slice of the affordable housing pie.

9 For low-income seniors, reverse mortgages can be a lifeline. The most effective strategy to reduce default rates is escrowing funds for property tax and insurance payments for borrowers with low FICO credit scores.

These findings underscore the need to invest in healthy, affordable housing for all Americans. Opportunities are shaped by a person’s housing, neighborhood, and environment. Policies that address housing and neighborhood’s role in creating and sustaining opportunities or disadvantage may be one of the most effective ways to fight poverty and promote upward economic mobility.

This article was originally published on the MacArthur Foundation’s website, and has been reproduced in a modestly modified form with permission from the Foundation.

Great Groups in St. Louis

This blog tends to focus on the problems going on in St. Louis. Today I want to write about organizations doing really positive work to improve the community and the lives of people. Here are the groups:

1. Beyond Housing- This organization led by a brilliant and dynamic President, Chris Krehmeyer is doing amazing work. They are most active in the area around the Normandy School District doing total community development though the 24:1 program. Efforts include housing, a movie theatre, health facilities, a bank, matching funds for college and many other program. This organization goes about community development the right way.

2.Better Family Life-This organization located in north St. Louis is focused on housing, financial literacy, credit building, and housing counseling. They are the only community based organization I know that is attempting to resolve the violence on the streets of North St. Louis.

3. DeSales Housing Development Corporation- This organization has been successful for years in developing and rehabilitating housing in the Benton Park area and providing a wholistic approach to community development.

4. Rise- This non profit has worked for years to build and rehabilitate affordable housing throughout St. Louis and to provide support and technical assistance to non profits.

5. Justine Petersen Housing Corporation- This organization provides micro loans to small businesses, credit counseling, and provides sources of financing and saving to people who do not have a regular relationship with a bank or poor credit.

6. St. Louis City Acadamy- This private school provides a world class education to mostly low income African American students in the City of St. Louis. All the students receive scholarships.

7. Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls- This charter school led by Mary Stillman provides STEM education to girls regardless of economic background. They have now begun their high school program.

8, Boys Hope/Girls Hope- BHGH provides a 24 hour living environment and education to academically strong students from a difficult background who would benefit from a change in living conditions. The scholars are provided with 24:7 support, attend regular high schools, and most of them go to and succeed in college.

I am sure there are other worthy organizations but these are the ones for which I am familiar. Written by Paul Dribin

The Good and Bad About St. Louis

I know a young man who is a physician and has finished his fellowship in Boston. He is considering jobs across the country but would not consider one in St. Louis because of the crime rate, and general conservative attitude of the area. I can understand the attitude of he and his wife. I wonder, what did Pittsburgh do right to be considered a hot city. For many years I considered it much like St. Louis but now it is considered one of the most desirable cities in the country in which to live.

The crime is driving the negative attitudes toward St. Louis. There are so many positive aspects to the community. Affordable housing and great neighborhoods, short commutes, great cultural attractions, Resturant’s, professional sports. We could have it all if we got crime under control. Written by Paul Dribin

Lyda Krewson

I usually don’t get into politics, but my first public administration class pointed out you can’t separate politics from policy. Elliot Davis of You Paid for It Fame on tv wrote a passionate facebook post in which he postured that Mayor Krewson the first woman mayor of St. Louis is not up for the job. He provided a number of good examples.

Unfortunately, I would have to agree with Elliot. She seems like a nice person but is just going through the motions of being mayor. She has not leadership skills. If I was a police officer or member of an officer’s family, I would have been outraged after her comments making nice to the demonstrators and indirectly criticizing the police. She has done nothing substantive to address crime, job loss, or racial inequality. The Mayor likes to have feel good meetings and is using that process to take 9 months to hire a police chief. I also think the effort to lure Amazon here is a waste of time and money. Written by Paul Dribin

Student Mentoring

Much of course has been written about poverty, racism, etc. Nothing has worked very well in addressing these problems. Let me propose a very simple idea, mentoring of students.

I have been a mentor at various times in my life and found it a great experience. More important, the young person being mentored and their families seemed to appreciate it.

I am proposing a mentoring program that would address the needs of all the at risk students in the St. Louis metro area. Volunteers need to be sought and programs established. The cost if huge but on a per student basis, quite inexpensive. Furthermore data shows it works.

I am working on starting a program at one school. Anyone else interested?

What Will Get Young People to St. Louis

I read an article last week touting Pittsburgh as the next great place to live. What would earn St. Louis that status?

Despite all my griping about St. Louis I know it is a great place to live. What are the key positive attributes?

1. A lot to do. Great cultural, sports, and dining opportunities. We are more in a league with Chicago rather than Omaha when it comes to cultural activities.

2. Affordable housing. The median housing price is much less than in most big cities. Young couple could get more for their dollar and save hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a lifetime.

3. Easy to get around- This speaks for itself. You will not need to commute for hours to get to work or school.

4. Top institutions of higher education

Negatives

1. Crime

2. Racial intolerance- Businesses want an open and accepting work and cultural climate for their employees. St. Louis has a long way to go to achieve this goal.

3. A proliferation of small governments-Our system of governance is too expensive, inefficient, and fosters exclusion.

4. Climate-The weather is horrible in the summer and still cold in the winter. Spring and fall are great.

Almost everyone who visits St. Louis likes it. We should develop a program to bring recent college graduates or college senior to town for a weekend to sell them on settling here. We have a lot to offer, and most of the country is unaware of us. Written by Paul Dribin

Crime in St. Louis

The crime scene in St. Louis appears to be worse than ever. Shootings and assaults are reported every day and more of them are taking place in good neighborhoods. Aside from the devastation caused to people and communities, the crime has a negative impact on the economy of the area. More people are afraid to go out, and potential visitors are more likely not to come.

The activism surrounding police violence is absolutely on target. Readers must remember that the biggest cause of deaths among African American young men is violence from other African American men. Also police officers I have talked with, both white and black say they are not willing to aggressively go after crime due to the criticism they might receive.

In the end, there are simply too many people acting badly. Many of these folks are not trainable or employable. Mentoring efforts need to take place with at risk families from the time children are born to try to develop parenting techniques that minimize this type of behavior.

Boys Hope/Girls Hope

This is another article in a series about individuals and groups doing great work in St. Louis.

Boys Hope- Girls Hope is a non profit that takes a boarding educational experience for inner city kids who are in at risk social situations but academically talented. The facility is housed in Richmond Heights and houses 10 male and 10 female scholars. These scholars range in grade from sixth grade to seniors in high school. They attend school at public and private schools. Many receive scholarships. The facility also provides meals, transportation, and extensive social services. Most of these students end up going to college, and about 65% graduate. Many of the alumni mentor the scholars.

In addition, Boys/Hope Girls Hope provides a non residential program which provides all the same programs except housing.

Mentoring

I have volunteered as a mentor to young boys on several occasions. In all cases both the mentor and I have found it to be a positive experience 

In a previous post I have commented on the  positive outcomes at St. DLouis city Academy resulting from strong parental involvement. Mentoring can at least be a partial solution to help kids not fortunate enough to have parents or other family members available.  This also applies to prevention if criminal behavior 

I am calling for mentoring programs for all at risk children and families. Much if this can be accomplished by extensive volunteer efforts. Organizations such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters already Dinan outstanding job. Funding will also be necessary. It will be funding very well spent 

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